Metaverse, Robots + Drones: 3 Future Trends To Keep Salons Thriving
LBP CEO Tev Finger shares his perspective on what’s next in beauty tech, building on a positive track record of predicting game-changing innovation and reinforcing the R+Co commitment to keep growing ahead of the curve.
When your finger is solidly on the pulse of technology and education, your salon gains a competitive edge and stays on the forefront of beauty success.
Luxury Brand Partners CEO and futurist Tev Finger shares his perspective on what’s next in beauty tech, building on a positive track record of predicting game-changing tech innovation and reinforcing the R+Co commitment to keep growing ahead of the curve.
LOOKING BACK, MOVING AHEAD
In 2014, LBP CEO Tev Finger participated in the MODERN SALON future forecast feature, and accurately predicted:
“Without question, the technology I see on the horizon that will be a game changer is Oculus. Haven’t heard of it? You should get familiar. It was designed for the gaming industry, but the idea of a fully immersive visual experience for training on the cutting and styling of hair will be revolutionary in salon education.
“Right now, most on-demand education is based off of flat printed materials, YouTube videos and diagrams. This will bring the hairstylist a whole new way of learning that is more visual and, therefore, better. *
The money is in gaming right now, so this is where it will start, but I can foresee a world about two years from now where an element of R+Co education happens online with the stylist feeling as though they’re at our academy in Miami. The big benefits will be saving time and money on travel without sacrificing that in-person, 3D feel of live education. I have been personally keeping a close eye on this, and the minute it becomes viable, we at Luxury Brand Partners will jump on it.”
Q. You were right on the money. What drove that response then and what do you see coming up next for beauty pros?
Tev: It was a standard question, but I didn’t want to give the basic or safe answer. Instead, I chose to speculate about what I really thought would be the game-changer that salons would need to know about to be in future position to lead and take advantage of virtual education and other opportunities.
So, I talked in 2014 about Oculus and the impact virtual technology and virtual education would have on salon training and education experiences in the not-so-distant future.
So much of what I spoke about then came true. Today, I want to compare what we at R+Co identified as important new technology in 2014 versus what we see as the technology driving our and our salons’ edge in 2022 and 2023.
Q. What happened between 2014 and now? How did your prediction play out?
Tev: At that point, salons in the industry hadn’t really heard of and weren’t talking about Oculus or thinking of putting on a pair of goggles for a reinvented, practical, hands-on salon education experience in virtual 3D.
On the broader stage, ideas continued to take shape and more attention was paid to what platforms like Oculus could provide. Specifically, Facebook bought Oculus in 2014 and by 2021, Mark Zuckerberg and crew changed their business name from Facebook to Meta and began buying plot after plot of virtual land in the metaverse.
In 2014 in pro beauty, we didn’t see anyone else directly drawing the parallel between gaming trends and salon education.
And certainly, no one had imagined the scope of what was coming in Spring 2020—the pandemic’s business shutdown and new social distancing requirements that would accelerate adoption of new, digitally executed ways to engage, communicate, learn.
But we all know what happened, and where we are today. Even without the impact of the pandemic leveling the playing field, and putting everyone—business owners, team members, customers—in the same situation of having to learn and embrace new technology, new ways of coming together, new ways of making purchases—the advancement of a new virtual reality world of opportunities kept unfolding. And R+Co was on the leading edge, helping salons work through it, with our R+Co Love affiliate program and other forward-thinking solutions.
Q. That was then, what is now? What is the NEXT prediction? What should today’s salon owners at the R+Co level be thinking about to solidify their future business?
Tev: The opportunity, recommendation and prediction I make for salon owners today is to learn about and start claiming and building your own space in the metaverse.
There are so many things a salon owner can do today to get in front of this meta-trend. One thing—and it might be hard to contemplate today—is to ask and answer the question of why and how anyone would go to a digital salon to get a haircut or other service, consultation or product recommendation (and real-time purchase). And how can I (as a salon owner) ensure consumers and prospects are choosing my digital or virtual salon and expertise, as well as my physical location and in-person beauty experience?
Q. Can we back up a second. What IS the metaverse and explain why it is important for salon owners to understand. And then let’s get into the reality of virtual, digital salons and experiences.
Tev: Sure, in 2014 Facebook bought Oculus, and more recently, publicly changed their corporate umbrella name to Meta, and immediately started buying plots of land in the metaverse and offering all kinds of services. (Facebook owns Instagram, too.)
What is the metaverse? The way I would explain it to salons is that there is a whole D2A (direct to avatar) economy and world. An avatar is a digital twin—think Memoji, but the details and looks and customization options keep improving. The metaverse is the place where those avatars interact and can purchase and engage.
The metaverse is really just another digital extension of a salon’s business. A salon’s website was web level 1. Social media is web level 2. Now, web 3 is the metaverse. And it’s the biggest opportunity for salons. It will only get bigger and better as time goes on, and will mix all the elements—your website and social media are still essential. But salons will need the metaverse—all three will be extensions of your business you can’t afford to ignore.
Q. How soon do salons need to act? Some are just feeling comfortable managing their website, e-commerce (thank you, R+Co) and Instagram presence?
Tev: Don’t be overwhelmed, just start doing research, playing in the space. Google “what is the metaverse.” Be curious and dive in. Salon specific interpretations are coming, and R+Co will set up a system to help you navigate—to make it easy and simple.
Rapid changes are already happening, and we are probably just a year or so away from salons popping up in the metaverse. No, you can’t actually cut hair in a digital, metaverse-based salon, but you can design and create a style or experience for a salon customer’s digital twin—or avatar. That’s not at all farfetched.
Q. Share some examples of brands already innovating in this space?
Tev: Salon owners and the salon industry should be thinking ahead about the metaverse economy for the same reason a big global company and retailer like Nike would purchase a company like Artifact, which only allows guests to purchase shoes in and for the metaverse.
There is a whole new economy and purchasing and acquisition experience evolving for consumers today. There is value and an element of scarcity attached to it that makes it attractive to very high-end brands like Rolex and TAG Heur, for example.
These luxury watch companies are designing and offering branded virtual versions of watches for consumers to buy and accessorize their avatars or digital twins for about $20. This is a very real income opportunity. But they are also experimenting with offering items that are special, exclusive, limited—connected to an NFT—a tradeable, transferable digital receipt of something, of value.
The Nike example is confirmation that the trend is real and happening, and applicable for all retailers and service businesses, including salons. The Rolex example is a vision into what is to come and where innovative salons might choose to experiment and lead.
Q. Nike is a big, familiar name—and cool, digital kicks for an avatar makes sense. What is the parallel for salons?
Tev: The parallel for salons is offering and customizing hair styles for a digital twin. It could be the same as the IRL (in real life) style or look the beauty professional creates. Or within the new metaverse scenario, the IRL salon business could offer a variety of digital versions of looks to try on and experience or wear for different “occasions”—special or every day. Many people will care about their digital twin’s look and persona style as much as they do about how they look IRL.
Q. You’re talking about a salon offering more than a consultation tool or temporary “try-on” looks to choose IRL shades or shapes? Salons will generate new, incremental revenues with a new digital service or extension of the service? How do they start preparing for this shift?
Tev: My first suggestion to all salon owners is to get in front of the metaverse game. Regularly invest a few hours of business or creative education time exploring online, Googling, searching, learning about the metaverse and what Facebook and lots of companies are doing with it.
Buy a piece or pieces of land in the metaverse. Just get started. Experiment. Then, begin setting up your salon: • Start simple and grow. • Maybe have an online camera showing a live view in your salon. • Build in prompts so that an automated person can speak to the visitor or narrate the experience/s they can have IRL or, eventually, virtually, too. • Start with the objective of engaging and recruiting more people to come to your in-reallife salon.
In the same way guests today visit an Instagram feed to get an idea of who you are and what kind of services, results or vibe your salon offers, they will soon expect to be able to explore your digital salon.
Online dating, online shopping and education (visiting the solar system in 3D in science class) are just three other examples beyond the salon that prove that your guests are leaning into virtual reality and digital experiences:
Q. That’s a lot for salons to absorb. And exciting opportunities to explore—with R+Co helping navigate, of course. Any other major tech trends you see having a big impact on salons?
Tev: There are three big tech-fueled opportunities for salons in the near and extended future: 1. The metaverse 2. Robots 3. Drones and uber-drones.
I spoke already about the 1- or 2-year vision, but we in the beauty and salon business can go way further.
• The metaverse will bring to life the digital twin of the salon. You’ll be teaching in it. Cosmetology students and licensed stylists will be learning in it. Imagine attending beauty school in the metaverse then having hours the student shows up in physical salon to do hands-on demos or assessments.
• It will soon be normal for everyone to have video headsets. Not just Oculus, but everyone developing and offering their own versions. (i.e. the same way it used to be a Sony Walkman or Apple Airpods)
• D2A—direct to avatar—commerce will take off. It will become very common when you get hair done for the process to include taking a finished look picture to convert to avatar and offer as add-on upsell for the salon to guest—a D2A or direct-to-avatar purchase.
• Retail sales opportunities keep evolving. Anyone who walks into your salon digitally can instantly place a product order as well as book a service. All brands will or should do that soon.
Robot technology is already here. The next phase is coming.
• First, to clean your salon and maybe check you in (visible, high-tech and automatic sanitation strategies are a competitive selling point, thanks to pandemic trends)
• Ultimately with AI and technology, it will become a no-brainer to have robots cut or color hair. (Don’t worry—your human touch and talent will still be in demand and essential.)
• Trends show consumers will actually pay more for the human touch but appreciate the convenience and efficiency and options of a digital experience. For example, one consumer might pay $100+ to go to a J-Lo concert while another pays hundreds of thousands to hire her for a private party. Both may choose at some point to $10 to watch a concert virtually. In the middle somewhere of offering a range of digital or robot-enhanced experiences is where salons will want to be.
• Bottom line: In the future, robots become pro-salon, to help you make more money and be more efficient, with a charging schedule and range of upgrades.
• Think behind your Roomba: You already have access to a little bit of robot technology today, perhaps to clean your floor. Imagine if you had a more powerful robot, more advanced in salon, to mix color and be an assistant to the color artist. Imagine ways robot technology could help you make your salon cleaner, better, smarter, faster to help you provide a better experience for the guest and a stronger financial model for your salon business.
• Shared pandemic experiences have accelerated two types of demand today—people who WANT services at home and those who want to get out of their home. Drones are primed to help deliver and serve both needs. Salons can capitalize.
• Jetson’s reality is coming: Drones will someday (sooner than we think) deliver not just goods, but people. Companies like Uber are already buying real estate on tops of buildings, on dead-end streets and in any convenient areas that could become dedicated pickup spots where drones can land and take-off
• Time as the ultimate currency: How and where could drones help you save time in your business? More important, how can you leverage drone trends to eliminate time “waste” for existing or future guests.
• Apply (the trend) now: Secure or identify an Uber/Lyft drop-off spot for your salon and communicate that to your guests. Imagine longer-term possibilities for the future—where might your drone drop-off or pick-up be? What else can do to convert travel into a nice part of your guest’s salon experience instead of a barrier?
• See the possibilities: Drone tech can be helpful for salons and help you increase revenue and attract and retain guests in the future. Don’t underestimate what’s next. Dream about how drones could make your life or business more convenient, and then take advantage of opportunities that can make it real, and make your salon experience even more amazing.
Q. Thank you, Tev. You’ve given our salon community of thought leaders a lot to be excited about. What can they do now to understand or lead in one or all of these big 3 trends?
Tev: First, read and share this article link with their team and other beauty leaders in their network, and talk about. Listen to our R+Co Talk Radio podcast on Spotify. Stay tuned for more info and support coming from R+Co.
In meantime, educate yourself, explore, give yourself creative time to build your technology understanding. Go on YouTube. Search and learn and talk to others in your world—your chair, even—about the metaverse, understanding what an NFT is, how tech and robots are being used in different, experience building ways.
Start now, but don’t panic. As fast as tech moves, it is also slow. Look at how far we came from 2014 to 2020 to now. Just stay open and curious.
Give yourself a one-week learning vacation, maybe, and dedicate a few hours every day to exploring and absorbing the metaverse. You can stay on top of technology and re-energize yourself at the same time. You’ll come back more knowledgeable and recharged.
Trust me—you want to know more about these trends. And trust R+Co to help interpret. Understanding and acting will be to your advantage. As a business, you will be unbeatable.